Author Archives: hjortronsylt

Folk Music

 

People sometimes ask me what kind of music I listen to.  I tend to be pretty eclectic, with tastes ranging from tribal drumming to Norwegian power metal covers of pop songs.  However, for getting in touch with my ancestors I prefer folk music.  A few of my favorite groups are EivørFrifot, Garmarna, Gjallarhorn, Hedningarna, Loituma, Ranarim, Triakel, Värttinä, and Wimme.

Of these, Garmarna and Hedningarna tend to apply the most progressive approach to Folk.  The rest tend to be use reasonably traditional arrangements, although Wimme sometimes shakes up his Joik with a modern beat.

Here’s a quick tour of some of my favorite songs by these artists.

I’ve already dedicated an entire blog post to translating Garmarna’s En Gång Ska Han Gråta, which may be my favorite of all their work.  A close second would be the progressive groove they are rocking in Gamen and Klevabergselden.  For beautifully haunting songs, you might try Den Bortsålda, about a girl whose father sells her away, and whose brother is unwilling to ransom her back.  The song is worth listening to solely for Emma Härdelin’s Kulning technique.  If you prefer delicate work, you might try Domschottis, and if an almost pop feel is more to your liking, I recommend Euchari.  I really could go on about this band all day, but I’m going to stop here.

Frifot brings the Swedish pipes in Höga Berg, and the double pipe in Dubbelpipan.  I couldn’t find a Youtube link for these, so you’ll have to try samples for the Album Sluring on iTunes or Amazon.

Eivør’s Trollabundin is visceral and haunting, especially with the bebox-style hissing/grunting she uses to make her troll sounds.  Her work meanders between traditional, progressive and modern folk, but I think this is perhaps the single best example of her versatility.

Hedningarna demonstrates a lovely fusion of progressive beats and traditional instruments with Räven.

No survey of Gjallarhorn would be complete without the joyful Suvetar and the stirring Bergfäst and Hjaðningarima.  The very ethereal sound of their adaptation of a Swedish Psalm is covered in depth with translation in my prior post.

Finnish Loituma’s claim to fame is Levan Polkka, a sung from the perspective of a young suitor who is intent on taking a girl to a festival dance, and isn’t afraid to inform her parents that they are, in fact, going, and no one can stop them.  The song was sampled for the infamous spinning leek Orihime meme.

Ranarim captures the joy of the folk scene in Maj Vare Välkommen and Fager Som En Ros.  Their arrangements are generally traditional yet very rich in sound.

Triakel features only Garmarna’s vocalist and two of the gentlemen from Hoven Droven.  They perform only traditional arrangments.  I think my favorite is probably Längmasaguten, but I Youtube seems to lack it.  Enjoy Veit instead.

Finnish Värtinnä has a long history, but I like their more recent work best.  They can do mirthful well, but I find the rhythmic chanting, progressive percussion, and slightly spooky atmosphere in Riena to really showcase their sound.  For a deliciously haunting treat, try Äijö.

You really cannot discuss Scandinavian folk music without including Joik, and Wimme performs this style almost exclusively.  Joik is rhythmic tribal chanting, usually set to drums and sometimes using a sparse set of instruments to round out the sound.  In Bamboo Honey, Wimme shows us a somewhat contemporary sound.  Joik of the Wind is a more traditional treatment, by Sofia Jannok.  Or here’s a whole playlist.

I hope you enjoyed this meandering through the styles.

Connecting to My Ancestors through Cooking, Building, and Making Mead

Banana Bread, by Ginny

Banana Bread, by Ginny

“Is this thing on? Is anybody listening?” These are questions I often ask my ancestors when sitting with a cup of tea, coffee or mead. Usually, I leave some for them, and some bread. Sometimes, this makes me feel a little strange: after all, shouldn’t they be too busy doing their own things? Shouldn’t I be solving my own problems? If they want to check in on us and see how we’re doing, can’t they do that any time they like? Even so, as a Heathen, that connection is important to me. On our feast days, we prepare the first plate for the ancestors. I have a small shrine dedicated to the ancestors which sits in a corner of the living room on my grandmother’s table. It enjoys a natural place in our daily life and during most gatherings. When we hold Sumbel (a Heathen cup-sharing, story-telling, merrymaking tradition), this shrine becomes the centerpiece of the room.

An occasional chat with my deceased people is calming. Frequently, though, I enjoy connecting with my ancestors a little more actively. I mean that literally – I like to make or do things that I know they used to enjoy themselves. Every Thanksgiving and Yuletide, I try to make my grandmother’s cranberry relish. It’s a simple enough recipe, but there’s something soothing about working with the fruits and waiting for the Jello to set. My grandmothers also liked to bake. I haven’t tried to replicate the famous zucchini bread yet, but I have made my own banana bread and pumpkin bread from scratch. My grandfathers had their own pastimes. Whenever I build something, I think of my dad (still with us, thankfully!) and his father, and their well-stocked workshops. I have fond memories of running Grandpa’s riding lawnmower around his massive backyard whenever I smell freshly cut grass. My mom’s father collected stamps and coins. It’s not my passion, but sometimes I leaf through the half-finished albums he helped me start, remembering him.

Mom was fond of tea, a taste I’ve recently re-acquired. She also enjoyed cross-stitch, a hobby we shared for a time. I should pick it up again, but I haven’t yet. She encouraged me to write poetry and such. I still do this, and I often think of her kind criticism of my early works. Mom taught me how to cook, and while I don’t cook as often as I should, I enjoy it when I do. I would probably enjoy playing my mother’s clarinet, although it was never my instrument. I haven’t tried it in years because it’s now in the care of my niece.

I also want to briefly mention my newest hobby, brewing. There’s something deeply satisfying about brewing a batch of mead. There’s a lot of cleaning and sanitizing effort, but the actual brewing is simple: mixing honey and water over fire. Just the way the ancients did it.

Some of these activities are specific to just one or a few of my ancestors. I often find that I have just one or two people on my mind when I want to connect. Other times, though, such as Yuletide, I feel the need to remember and honor them all, so it’s good that many of these activities can be combined. I can eat a slice of the bread I made yesterday and drink some tea while I sketch plans for a project. Sometimes, I leave them all a little tea and bread to say “thank you.”

How do you connect with your ancestors?

This article is cross-posted at The Pagan Princesses.

O du armes Zodawascherl!

A friend of mine asked if I could help clarify what was meant by a passage about Frau Perchta, and in particular, the name of one of the wee people that followed in her procession in a particular story. Of course, most of the versions of the story we could find were scarce on details, but the tale goes basically like this: Perchta is proceeding through town and this man sees the trail of poor children behind her, and as the last passes by, exclaims, “O du armes Zodawascherl.” She informs the man that, for naming the child, his reward shall be good fortune. Yes, that’s disappointingly the extent of the detail in most of the surviving versions of the tale, especially those that have been translated into English.

My friend wanted to know if Zodawascherl is a name or whether it is a word that has some significant meaning.

Zodawascherl is not so archaic as you might guess.

It’s comprised of two roots, the first is Zod- and the second is -wasch. The second half of the word, taken by itself, means literally “little washer,” in the same way that adding “-l” to any name adds the concept “little” or “dear”  Franz -> Franzl, Hans -> Hansl, Greta -> Gretl. Sometimes, as with the tale Hansel and Gretel, “-el” is added to aid pronunciation, but this latter spelling is (in my limited experience) only common in English translations.

The first half of the compound word has been more difficult to track down, and probably is archaic. The Germans love their kennings, even to this day, so deciphering the meaning will be a bit of a challenge. In Modern English, I tend to expect compound words to be made of components that refer to each other. In most other Germanic languages, this not necessarily the rule: compound word components complement each other to make a whole picture. So, as English speakers, we might expect “Zoda” to tell us something about how or what the “little washer” washes.

The author of this page offers a completely unsubstantiated meaning of the name, which is “ragged little mite.”

I think that’s certainly in the spirit of the name. Let’s see if we can do better.

The best two matches I can find in Wahrig Deutsches Wörterbuch (1997), hastily corroborated by a glance at the entry for Proto-Germanic tadôn from The Germanic Lexicon Project, are:

die Zotte (OHG Zotta, Zotto, from Proto-Germanic tadôn), meaning an unorganized tuft or lock of hair.

die Zotte (Low german Teute, Tute) “Bottle-spout”

It seems to me from the context of the myth, that if either of these is correct it is likely to be “tuft of hair,” which would allow us to translate the name as “little scruff-washer.” However, it is possible that the name could instead mean “little bottle-washer,” which is plausible because myth-makers love puns: this could mean that the little one washes bottles, or that he washes only with a bottle (instead of a basin, bucket, or more ample-sized water vessel.)

It seems equally plausible that Zod- comes from some other root word. I need some context.

I went looking for the original myths, and while I’m not sure that I really found them, I did find this 2005 OCR-scan of a 1913 paper, “Perht Holda und verwandte Gestalten, Ein Beitrag zur deutschen Religionsgeschichte, by Dr. Viktor Wachnitius.

In the section on Lower Austria, there is some information about Zodawascherl. It seems that tradition holds that Perchta has 13 children that follow her in her hunt. 12 of them are obviously ghostly, demonic, dead, or otherwise otherworldly. One of them is more like a real child, but is unable to join the children in the villages that the hunt passes through. In his sadness, he cries constantly. He collects his tears with… A JUG.

So, I’m going to go with “you poor little bottle-washer.” You can put the page through Google Translate if you like.

Start reading after searching for “Zodawascherl” and you will find a very rough translation.

Skyr, reloaded!


I have recently discovered that our local Whole Foods (at least the one at Gateway near the Arboretum) carries Siggi’s Skyr, which is an Icelandic-style fresh cheese resembling some kinds of yogurt. Skyr is a staple in Iceland today, having been brought from Scandinavia during the migrations. Several sources allege that Skyr-making was subsequently "lost" to the mainland, making this Icelandic dish a unique culinary link to an older time.


Siggi‘s a little pricey ($2.50 for 6 oz., compared with $0.50 for yogurt), but if you like such things it is worth experiencing. However, you should probably know a few things about it before you rush right out and buy some.First, Siggi’s differs from authentic skyr in ways that my friends (who have tried the real thing) insist are "subtle and not important." Siggi’s is not made with the same bacteria culture, and is made with ingredients, such as agave nectar, which have not been available in Iceland until recent times.

Second, Skyr is a fresh cheese, and is substantially thicker than yogurt, but can nonetheless be mixed in most of the same ways to give body or smooth texture to a dish. It is frequently used in Iceland with and without sweeteners as a topping on pastries or in cereal dishes, or mixed with fresh fruit as a treat.

Thirdly, the sugar content of Siggi’s Skyr is much lower than blended yogurt. In my opinion the plain variety, having less than 1/6 the sugar of blended yogurt, must be mixed or sweetened to taste—it is otherwise too tart. In contrast, I find the fruit-flavored varieties are enjoyable right out of the cup, and have as much as 1/3 the sugar compared to blended yogurt.

Fourth and finally, my own extremely limited experience is that the closer the date on the cup, the more sour the skyr will become, but this can be overcome with a half-packet of sugar or sufficiently sweet additional fruit. There are also a number of ways to cure "sour" Skyr, but most of them involve taking the sour Skyr as a starter to make more Skyr, a process which requires Rennet and unpastuerized or slow-pasteurized milk. If you have the means and the drive, you can search the tubes for "Thettir" and "Skyr" and find recipes to make your own.

Donar

thor_hammer_pendant Here is a a picture of the Thor’s Hammer pendant I found at the Austin Celtic Festival this past weekend.  I suppose I should write more but at the moment its kind of busy around here :)You can click the image for a link to the gallery with a higher resolution view of the artwork.

Other news includes Freyrfaxi with R, and J&J in August that was very nice, PPD in October, and the formation of Red Oak in September.

Let us not also forget the 11 year anniversary with Gwenhwyvar, commemorated with dinner at the Emerald and a movie afterward 🙂

Hopefully an upcoming Jul feast in December will close out this mostly excellent year nicely 🙂

 

of the Gods.

[i meant to post this yesterday when i wrote it but didn’t get time]
I am fire, the forge-spark burning
Am air flowing, feeder of flames
Am earth moving, molding, lifting
Water rushing, river of life.

I walk among the Ancestors
Their ways and wisdom, their worth my own.
I dance among the land Vættar
Their company and courage mine.

I march among mighty Æsir,
Sing with Danu’s sons and daughters,
Walk the wilds, a Vana-friend.
For I am of the tribes of Gods.

Dagens Folkkemusik (Folk Music du jour)

Today’s selection is a particularly lovely performance by Garmarna at 1997’s Melodifestivalen.  This piece is a particularly exquisite example of the complexity of which this band is capable.  l eventually set about figuring out what it means.  Any translation errors are mine.  Transcription errors may be mine, too.  My aim in the translation was to preserve the rhyme, meter and feel of the song as much as possible, which is a little different from my usual aim of demonstrating the similarities.  Original Swedish lyrics by Wester and Bäckman.

En Gång Ska Han Gråta One Day He Shall Cry
Å! Då skar hon linnet itu
Hon vill glömma! Hon vill glömma!
Inte kan hon bära det nu—
Hon vill inte ha det kvar.
O! She cuts the nightgown in twain
To forget him, To forget him!(**)
Never can she wear it again—
She doesn’t want it anymore.
Det var tänkt att visas för den
Som hon lovat! Som hon lovat!
Han som aldrig kommer igen—
Den hon inte vill ha kvar.
It was meant to be worn for him
Who had promised! who had promised!
He who cannot come back again—
She doesn’t want him anymore.
Hon tar vad han har givit,
Går ut i skymningen,
Det ska ned i svarta jorden
Och hon ser mot himmelen!
She takes what he had given,
Goes out in twilight’s hour,
To bury it in the black earth
And looks up to the heavens!
En gång ska han gråta
Fast ingen orkar förlåta!
Vad var dom värda hans dyra ord
Dom fick dö i den svarta jord?
One day he shall cry
Nigh none can forgive such a lie!
His dearest word, what was it worth
That finds death here in the black earth?
En gång ska han fatta,
Hon grät men då ska hon skratta!
Då ska hon dansa på lätta ben
Med en annan i månens sken!
One day he shall fathom, (***)
She wept but she shall laugh again!
Then she shall dance away all the night(*)
With another by moon’s soft light!
Ingenting kan bli som förut.
Hon ska glömma! Hon ska glömma!
Kärleken kan också ta slut;
Den kan dödas med ett svek.
Nothing can remain as before.
She’ll forget him, She’ll forget him!(**)
Love can also come to an end;
It can die amidst deceit.
Å! Då skar hon linnet itu
Hon vill glömma! Hon vill glömma!
Inte kan hon bära det nu—
Hon vill inte ha det kvar.
O! She cuts the nightgown in twain
To forget him, To forget him!(**)
Never can she wear it again—
She doesn’t want it around.
Och hon tar hans falska gåva,
Går ut i skymmningen.
Där i jorden ska den sova
Och hon ser mot himmelen!
And she carries his false gift,
Goes out in twilight’s hour.
There in the earth shall it sleep now
And she looks up to the heavens!
En gång ska han gråta
Fast ingen orkar förlåta!
Vad var dom värda hans dyra ord
Dom fick dö i den svarta jord?
One day he shall cry
Nigh none can forgive such a lie!
His dearest word, what was it worth
That finds death here in the black earth?
En gång ska han fatta
Hon grät men då ska hon skratta!
Då ska hon dansa på lätta ben
Med en annan i månens sken!
One day he shall fathom,
She wept but she shall laugh again!
Then she shall dance away all the night(*)
With another by moon’s soft light!
En gång ska han fatta,
Hon grät men då ska hon skratta!
Då ska hon dansa på lätta ben
Med en annan i månens sken!
One day he shall fathom,
She wept but she shall laugh again!
Then she shall dance away all the night(*)
With another by moon’s soft light!

(*) I took a number of liberties with re-ordering the halves of lines or inserting syllables in the translation, however in this line the translation is “Then shall she dance on light legs.” or perhaps even “Then shall she dance on happy/unburdened legs.”  The implication is that obviously she will get over him and will happily dance again under the moonlight with some better guy.
(**) Hon vill glömma – She wants to forget.  Hon ska glömma – She shall forget.
(***) “Fathom” is probably not cognate for Swedish “fattar” – to understand or grasp.

Kom Helge Ande

Gjallarhorn recorded this folk song and psalm, in a sort of folk form reminiscent of both Chant and Stav.  Their treatment reminds us that our world view and faith, as children of Europe, has not changed as much under the surface as some of our neighbors in this country would have us think.

“Kom Helge Ande” also happens to be included in quite a few editions of the Svenska Psalmboken.  The earliest I have found is the 1695 edition, but the earliest full version of the Psalm that seems to be viewable online is from 1819.

Gjallarhorn Psalmboken (1819) Translation (Mine)
Kom Helge Ande till mej in
Upplys min själ
Uppfyll mitt sinn
Kom, Helge Ande, till mig in,
Upplys min själ,
upptänd mitt sinn,
Come, Holy Spirit, (in) to me!
Light up my soul!
Fill up my senses!(*)
Att jag i dej må bliva
Låt lysa livets ljus på mej
Och led mej på den rätta väg
Dej vill jag mig helt giva
Att jag i dig må bliva,
Låt lysa livets ljus för mig
Och led mig på den rätta stig:
Dig vill jag helt mig giva.
So I in thee may be
Let light(**) life’s light fore me
Eke(***) lead me upon the right way
(to) Thee will I myself wholly give.

(*) The 1819 Psalmboken says “upptänd,” meaning light up or ignite, from the same Germanic root as modern english “tinder.”  Other versions, including Gjallarhorn’s, says “fill up.”  The verb “Upplys” in the previous line means to illuminate.

(**) Let shine life’s light before me.  Literally, Let light(v.) life’s light (n.) before me, but modern English lacks unambiguous spellings of the verb and noun form.  In modern Swedish, both forms survive:  Lysar på – to shine before, and Ljus  (a light).

(***) ME, “also,” compare with Chaucer:  “Ond Zephirus eek, with his sweete Breath” (sic.)

The word “Ande,” literally “spirit,” survives along with the concept “Helga Ande,” or “holy spirit,” from the tribal days of the North.  Although the word seems to have fallen out of use in German, the word “Andacht,” which has curiously religious connotations and a completely unrelated etymology (“dacht” – “thought”, “andacht” – “belief”), survives.

Moreover, the formula of this Psalm is actually quite common in Christian prayers in the west.  At its core is the ancient tradition of asking for a sign, of offering something (in this case oneself) in exchange for guidance or revelation.  It’s a very tribal sort of contract between the invoker and the Spirit.  “Do this, and I shall…”

“Come, reveal, take and I shall give myself to you”

One can find the same sort of invocation, reaching out, asking for guidance, for a sign, in the hymns of the Rig Veda, and many other holy texts from around the world.

Eine Kleine Volkmusik…

So… I recently re-discovered Scandinavian Folk music and found that it reminds me a lot of quite a few different styles, but mostly it tends to remind me of Celtic or even Hindu works.  In addition to finding a Scandinavian Essentials Collection on iTunes…  I have also found a streaming radio station in Norway (look for Alltid Folkemusikk and choose your stream) and a distributor here in the states.